Healthy Benefits Part 1 – My $100 Carrot

I got one of those “just a friendly reminder” emails at work the other day from corporate.  These usually quickly make their way to my trash bin, but this one caught my eye. It said “don’t miss out on your $$$$”. If you haven’t figured it out yet, Max OOP likes dollar signs.   

I guess working for a living does have its perks from time to time. Many employers, and especially hospitals, offer benefits outside of the normal package to promote healthy living. These are often packaged as financial incentives to stay healthy. It is the carrot part of the carrot and stick approach. You should find out if your company offers any carrots and if they don’t, tell them Max OOP said they should. 

The idea is management puts a carrot out in front of their worker bee and tells them they can have it, but only if they (insert healthy activity here). It is great for public image, employee morale, and probably actually makes a few people healthier. For Max OOP, the carrot is $100 per year. 

Is the Carrot Effective?

I bet some CEOs see these as costly programs to run and an administrative burden. After all, with no accountability or data to support actual positive healthcare outcomes, how could you blame them? They would much rather charge you higher insurance premiums for having a high Body Mass Index (BMI). These are the discussions had when budgets get tight. I mean think about it, $100 X 10,000 employees is over a million dollars in expense plus the actual cost of having the HR person process the requests and store paperwork. 

This is where Max OOP will bow out of the ‘rewarding wellness’ vs. ‘penalizing the unhealthy’ debate for today. I don’t need to debate with anyone about how complicated and unfair the BMI index is. I just want my $100 carrot. 

Getting The Carrot

The hospital I work for offers up to $50.00 every 6 months to promote healthy living. For Max OOP, this particular benefit is geared towards paying for loosely defined ‘general wellness’ activities. This includes anything from healthy cooking classes to bowling league fees. Seriously! The flexibility of the program is nice, and I use the $50.00 to pay for part of my gym membership. Max OOP actually failed to capture this benefit all of last year leaving $100 on the table in 2018. Yet another optimization flop from Max OOP, but I won’t let it happen again. 

It took me 10 minutes to complete the paperwork a few weeks ago. I got the form from HR via email so I could request reimbursement. Yes, it probably would have been healthier to physically walk to HR and get the form but the convenience of email delivery was nice.  I logged into my gym’s online membership account (after needing to re-set the password, of course) and printed out my receipt as proof of payment. I attached my gym membership receipt to the HR form and submitted it to HR electronically through their portal. Just in the nick of time, too, since the forms were due 3/31/2019 for the first 6-month period of fiscal year 2019. 

Now, I wait for them to process the request. I will let you know when I get the first half of my $100 annual carrot. I believe it will be processed and paid through normal payroll at some point in May. 

Final Thoughts

Although it may not seem like a lot of money, benefit packages that promote healthy living can really add up over time. Max OOP will gross $1,000 every 10 years from this particular benefit package. 

I should also note, unfortunately, that this benefit had absolutely no impact on my personal health considerations. I joined the gym last November and would have regardless of this benefit. That said – I do appreciate the extra money and simplicity of the program. Since my gym membership has been running $29/month the last few months, this has covered 1.72 months of gym memberships.  

Max Out of Pocket = $0.00, ~ 5-10 minute time commitment twice a year.

Disclaimer: If you find yourself in Southeastern Australia, please leave your carrots at home or you may be attacked by a carrot-addicted kangaroo.

Does your employer offer you a carrot to stay healthy?  Is the process easy or difficult? 

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4 Responses

  1. I love employer supplied carrots like this! Also slightly envious of your ability to take that $100 and spend it as you wish on various health-related purchases. My employer doesn’t give us our choice necessarily, but they DO offer a $20 per month gym membership at a few of the local chains. It works out to about a $20-40/month cost savings depending on which gym you choose. I’m only bummed because I found out about it AFTER getting my gym membership. Though we are strongly considering chowing down on this carrot as well. The little things add up!

    Elise

    • Max OOP says:

      Hi Elise!

      Cool! Employer subsidized gym memberships are also great! The old hospital system I used to work at down south had a nice gym right on campus but even after being slightly subsidized it still worked out to between $40 – $50 a month. So I would say $20 is a great deal (especially in California!). I think it is pretty amazing how many people don’t take advantage of these types of benefits.

      Max OOP

  2. Alas, I’m self-employed doing contract work. So neither my “employer” (me) nor my actual employer (the guy that pays me for contract work) cares enough to give me money.

    On the other hand, I don’t work out at a gym, so I’d have no way of proving my healthy activities. I have chronic fatigue, so just getting to the gym can sap some much-needed energy. It’s easier for me to work out at home. And it makes it easy to fit into my workday too.

    Still, at least I’m being healthy(ish — still eating more than I should if I want to lose weight) carrot or no. That’s something. Just not something as good as what you’re getting.

  3. I love carrots! Well financial carrots, regular carrots not so much. Our work does a lot around employee health, one time they offered a fit bit if you joined the walking challenge, another time they did a raffle if you got the flu shot. I think it definitely motivates a few more people than to not have the incentive. Plus, it pays dividends in the long run if your employees are not calling out of work for sickness.

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